Laws in Each US State Related to Immigration and Immigrants

NCSL monitors and reports on state laws that pertain to legal immigrants, migrant workers,

refugees, and unauthorized immigrants. The report recognizes and describes all enacted laws or resolutions, with examples of new ones as well as any Trends. (Note: the terms used throughout these reports by NCSL largely come from state legislation language. In some cases though, unauthorized immigrants are also discussed in regards to being illegal or undocumented aliens.)

Report for 2020

In 2020, legislation related to immigration saw a decrease of 30% down to 127 laws from 181 in 2019. Resolutions follow the same trend, dropping 41% to 79 from 135. With so much else going on in the world because of the pandemic and economic crisis, many state legislatures chose to focus their attention elsewhere. To provide pandemic relief, states offered things like health care for immigrant seniors, tenant protections, and the extension of eligibility for public benefits. Additionally, states worked on professional licenses for immigrants regardless of their immigration status.

Report for 2019

In 2019, the number of laws related to immigration increased by 3% to 181, compared with 175 laws in 2018. These trends included the 2020 census, offices or task forces on immigration, occupational licensing, driver’s licenses, and sanctuary policies/immigration enforcement.

Report for 2018

In 2018, the amount of immigration-related legislation decreased by 15 percent to 175 laws in comparison to 206 laws from the previous year. State lawmakers enacted a total of 175 laws and 222 resolutions related to immigration in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Major trends addressed included occupational licensing, sanctuary policies, refugees, and education/civics.

Report for 2017

Compared to 98 laws in 2016, 206 immigration-related laws were enacted in 2017. In total, 469 pieces of legislation were created including 49 state sanctuary policies, refugees, educational/civics discussions, and instate tuition talks.

Report for 2016

In 2016, legislation related to immigration (enacted laws and resolutions) decreased by 55 percent to 98 compared with 216 in 2015. A total of 270 were enacted across 43 states–98 laws and 172 resolutions. An additional 14 bills were vetoed by governors and two were pending signatures.

Find out more about US immigration laws.

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